Places We Protect

Hemlock Draw


A dirt trail through a green forest with rock outcrops.
Hemlock Draw Of all the hollows in the Baraboo Hills, Hemlock Draw supports the most stunning contrast in vegetation. © Mark Godfrey

Hemlock Draw supports a stunning contrast in vegetation, with both northern and southern Wisconsin plants growing in this rocky valley.



Of all the valleys in the the Baraboo Hills, Hemlock Draw supports the most stunning contrast in vegetation. You can see plant and bird species typically found in the northern areas of the state growing close to those typically found in southern Wisconsin.

These northern species, such as hemlock and yellow birch, may be relics from the time, some 13,000 years ago, when the edge of a towering ice mass stood just a few miles to the east.

You can see narrow pillars of rock, called "sea stacks," which are a remnant of ancient times when the Baraboo Hills were a chain of islands in a vast sea.



Please wear good hiking shoes that can get wet on the primitive, unmarked trail.


Open year-round, dawn to dusk


Quartzite outcroppings, wildflowers, birds


1,010 acres

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Photos from Hemlock Draw

From spring ephemeral wildflowers to eye-catching geologic formations, Hemlock Draw offers unique sights and experiences for hikers and visitors.

White oaks in a forest surrounded by yellow wildflowers.
The forest within the Hemlock Draw Preserve.
Bloodroot flowers blooming among leaf litter on a forest floor.
Ferns covering a forest floor.
A black-and-white warbler perched on a branch.
A close-up of a barred owl in profile.
A jack-in-the-pulpit wildflower on the forest floor.
Ice formation and sun through trees at Hemlock Draw Preserve, Baraboo Hills, Wisconsin.
A close-up of pink lady slippers on the forest floor in Baraboo Hills, Wisconsin.
A rock outcrop in the middle of a green forest.


  • Plants: Many northern forest trees and plants, including hemlock, yellow birch, club mosses, liverworts and cliff saxifrage can be seen at Hemlock Draw. There are also plentiful southern species like sugar maples, red and white oaks, hickories, and ironwood trees.

    During the spring and summer, wildflowers, such as wild geranium, wood anemone, bloodroot, and trillium flourish under the large trees.

    Several rare plants, including drooping sedge and kidney-leaved sullivantia can also be found in Hemlock Draw.

    Birds:  More than 40 species of breeding birds, including barred owls, ruffed grouse, wood thrush, six species of warblers — including the rare worm-eating warbler — and four species of woodpeckers can be found in the preserve.

    Geology: An interesting aspect of Hemlock Draw is its geology. Formations of sedimentary rock exposed within the preserve furnish evidence that the Baraboo Hills were a chain of sea islands in the Cambrian-Ordovician periods, some 500 million years ago. The sandstone deposits formed during this era lie above the much older Baraboo quartzite, which is revealed in one of the finest geologic features of the preserve, a narrow pillar of rock called a “sea stack.” The sea stack is a reminder of the time when tempestuous storms stirred an ancient island sea, eroding the quartzite bedrock and creating formations like those now found along rocky coastlines on the edges of this continent.

  • Hemlock Draw is especially beautiful in spring when the wildflowers are blooming and the songbirds are returning from their wintering grounds farther south.

    There are two entrances to the preserve, one off of Reich Road and the other off Buck Fever Road. Both entrances provide access to rustic trails.

    From the Reich Road entrance, you can access the Houston and June Jones Trail (1 mile to the end). This trail crosses a small stream in at least three places. There are no bridges, so you will need to wear boots or other footwear that can get wet.

    From the Buck Fever Road entrance, you can access the Buck Fever Trail, which is a 2.2-mile loop from the entrance.

    Some parcels of land within the preserve remain in private ownership—please do not trespass. The preserve boundaries are marked with small, yellow signs featuring TNC's logo.

    Good walking shoes or boots, long pants, water and bug spray (in summer) are recommended. There are no bathroom facilities at this preserve.

    Visitors are asked to stay on the trail to protect the habitat. Cell service may not always be available.

  • For more information about visiting the preserve, please follow the links below:

    All our preserve maps are now georeferenced. You can download an app on your Apple or Android device, and it will allow you to view your location, record GPS tracks, add placemarks and find places.


The Nature Conservancy (TNC) first came to the Baraboo Hills in the early 1960s at the request of local residents and university professors who recognized the unique nature of this area. They wanted TNC’s help in protecting it.

Hemlock Draw is among TNC’s earliest acquisitions in the Hills, with land first purchased in 1964 and conceived as a forest study area. The presence of both northern and southern plant and bird species makes Hemlock Draw an important site in the Hills.

According to Harold Kruse in his book “Natural Areas in the Baraboo Hills,” in the early 1960s, Dr. Orie Loucks, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison at that time, first referred to this area, where hemlock trees extended fully a mile along the stream that wound through the valley, as the “Hemlock Draw,” and thus it has been called ever since.

While the forests of the Baraboo Hills are in relatively good condition, we are losing oak trees, putting the birds, insects and other wildlife that depend on them at risk. In 2014, we began to restore the oak forests at Hemlock Draw Preserve, using thinning and prescribed fire to set the stage for acorns to germinate and take root and for oak seedlings to have plenty of light to compete well.  

Nearby Preserves

Need more nature? Visit The Nature Conservancy's other preserves.